In This Time: Leadership Lessons from Esther

Renewal, restoration, transformation, and salvation will come from here or another place.

He said, “Rich, you may have launched your church, Christ Crucified Fellowship in 2012, but you don’t really become those proposed values and cultures until years after.” Almost 4 years later, I’m beginning to realize the profound truth behind that word. I have also come to realize how deeply true that is about leadership.

Over the course of the last 5 years, God has been very kind to me, my family and our ministry. I’ve learned more about leadership and myself in the last few years than I have in any other season of my life. In a learning series entitled Living with the Ghost: Exploring the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I recently taught on the spiritual gift of leadership. And while there is an endless number of characters in the Bible that help us see this gift come to life, I’m grateful for the unlikely and overlooked example of Hadassah— or better known as Esther.

Here are a few things that inspire me about Esther:

Leaders Feel Deeply

In other words, it is only through a deeply empathetic posture that leaders are born. No course of action, no impulse to pioneer a movement of change has ever been birthed without the deep pains of injustice. Simply put, you cannot lead well without first being shaken to your core because you see and feel that things are not as they should be.

It’s because MLK felt the pains of injustice, particularly within the African-American and poor communities, that he stirred the Civil Rights Movement. Esther was no different. She heard that an edict was sent out to make it as if the Jews never existed, the Bible tells us that she became “deeply distressed.” This is no mere sympathy or an “ah shucks” moment. These are deep labor-like pains. It says, “I am in pain because you are in pain.” When we talk about leaders, we’re not fundamentally talking about those who have a keen eye for building structures that make efficient systems, we’re talking about those with a keen eye to build cultures that make healthy and authentic people.

Leaders Think Honestly

Thinking honestly means having the ability to look at a moment with sobriety. You’re realistic about the truth, yet no matter how difficult, it won’t destroy you. You’re able to come to grips with the darkness of a moment without it overcoming you.

Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, confronts her and urges her to ask the king to revoke the edict that will destroy all the Jews. She understandably says something like, “That’s not a smart idea, Mordecai. I’d like to keep my head on my body.” But what we learn from her response is what every leader at one point or another is harassed by— the fear of inadequacy. We ask ourselves, “Is my leadership well-received? Is my service helpful?”

Fear is a beast, as they say and the leader is often plagued by it. I wonder how many incredible dreams to change the world for the fame of God have died in the hands of the leader because of fear.

I’m grateful for the divinely inspired voice of Mordecai in Esther’s life. He reminds us that leadership is not about preserving yourself, but preserving the greater good of God’s purposes. He reminds us that God is faithful and in control at all times. He reminds us that leaders don’t have to know what will happen next, but they must be driven by what will happen ultimately.

Leader, whether or not you choose to seize the opportunities your platforms offer you, remember today that deliverance will come!

Renewal, restoration, transformation, and salvation will come from here or another place. It will come from you or someone else. It will happen here and now, or there and later. While it’s important that you consistently pursue faithfulness in your ministry, it is of critical importance that you not forget that God invites you into His work— His work of deliverance and salvation, not yours. Find comfort in that reality, but even more, find freedom and power and inspiration and strength to join Him in His work.

Leaders fundamentally bubble over with faith, not strategy. Those with the gift of leadership are fueled by the sovereignty of God! In other words, we’re fueled by the reality that God is in control in every moment, at every hour, and nothing surprises Him. His word is true, His promises never fail, and His words are a refuge!

Published February 23, 2016

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